According to Dr.Harriet Lerner, in a pursuer-distancer relationship, the pursuer responds by moving toward the partner. This is to seek communication and fix what they think is wrong. The pursuer will usually feel anxious. This is from the distance the partner (distancer) has created.

Pursuer-distancer relationship
Photo Credits: kaka.0098; Flickr

Alicia: “Why do you do that?”

Don: “Do what?”

Alicia: “You ignore me”

Don: “No, I don’t”

Alicia: “We need to talk about it. You’re doing it right now”

Don: “I don’t see the problem. You’re overacting”

Alicia: “No I’m not”

Don: “I’m not interested to talk about this anymore”

In the above example, Alicia is the pursuer and Don the distancer. This is what a typical pursuer-distancer relationship looks like.

Pursuer-Distancer Relationship Patterns

  • A pursuer partner criticizes you for being unavailable. The victim believes to have superior values. If the victim’s partner fails to connect, they go into a cold, detached state. The distancer will usually label them as needy, demanding, and nagging. 
  •  A distancing partner will respond to relationship stress by moving away. They will keep a physical and emotional distance. The distancer partner is approachable when they don’t feel pressured. The pursuer wily label them as unavailable, withholding, and shutdown. 

What Pursuers-Distancers Must Know

Pursuer-deistancer relationship
Photo Credits: Boris SV; Flickr; relationship

Stop pursuing and discover ways to call off the pursuit. Find ways to reconnect with your partner without aggressive pursuing.  The distancer may be unhappy about how things are going in the relationship. But, he/she is more likely to maintain the status quo than move toward a pursuing partner.

Many partners will usually get tired by years of pursuing and feeling unheard. This usually results in leaving the pursuer-distancer relationship. When the distancer realizes this, they may intensely pursue. But, it might be too late. 

The Solution to a Pursuer-Distancer Relationship

The desire to be a better partner in a pursuer-distancer relationship is the solution. Pursuers are more outcome dependent and have a hard time making changes without expectations. Distancers on the other hand are stubborn and have a hard time making the first move when under pressure. When one partner decides to make a commitment to change on a consistent basis, the pursuer-distancer pattern disappears.